Thursday, November 13, 2014

Indian Railways continues to drag its feet on making its stations accessible despite court rap

Written by Ruhi Bhasin | Mumbai | Posted: November 13, 2014 12:12 pm

Directing the railways to come up with a time-bound schedule to provide basic facilities for the differently abled by November 24, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday noted that a large number of suburban stations still did not been provide basic amenities like accessible toilets, railings, low ticketing counters and low-height water taps.

Justices A S Oka and A S Gadkari were acting on a bunch of petitions, including one submitted by NGO Disability Right Initiative represented by senior lawyer Gayatri Singh. The petitions highlighted the issue of raising the height of platforms at local stations and providing helipads near railway stations to airlift accident victims.

“As we invite discussions on raising the height of platforms, several people have lost their lives. We cannot spend so much time because railways cannot provide basic facilities. It is sad that the court has to monitor such matters,” the HC said.

On being informed that such facilities had been provided at only 22 stations,  the HC noted that the law required railways to provide such facilities for the differently abled at all stations.

While referring to the affidavits filed by Central and Western Railways, the court observed “We find that in cases of large number of suburban stations, basic amenities for the differently abled are not provided. We direct the railways to file an affidavit specifying an outer limit to provide such basic facilities like accessible toilets, ramps, low height ticketing counters and water taps at all station. Compliance of other facilities will be considered in the next hearing.”

The court has now asked the railways and the state government to file their affidavits by November 24. The next hearing in this matter will be held on  November 26.

“As far as directions to raise the height of platforms is concerned, substantial compliance has been made by Western and Central Railways. Also, tactile indicators should be put 18 inches from the edge to assist visually impaired people,” the court observed.

On the issue of constructing helipads along stations at 14 spots, the court stated that the government’s response in this matter was very vague. “From the urban development department, we have received very vague replies. It does not set out the exact nature of policy decision taken by the government in response to an earlier court order,” it said.

The HC had earlier directed the state government to decide on this issue by by November 5. “You may take time but say yes or no. When an outer limit has been set then the decision should have been made by now. If land is available, why do you require modification of development control regulations? If a particular spot is not available another can be provided,” the court observed.

Delhi Metro is not barrier free for travelers with blindness

Dear Colleagues,

This horrific incident with our friend Smriti Singh, is indicative of the fact how unsafe the Metro services has been all this while. Some time back our another visually impaired friend Ms. Sweety Bhalla, a senior employee at Food Corporation of India also suffered injuries when her feet got stuck between the space on the platform and the train coach. These are important reminders that Delhi Metro should immediately address the safety of its passengers. 

Shreya Roy Chowdhury,TNN | Nov 13, 2014, 03.30 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Smriti Singh, a visually impaired English teacher at Maitreyi College, fell on the tracks at Vaishali Metro station while trying to pick her way out of a train, unescorted, on November 5 (Wednesday). The 30-year-old's predicament—she's now laid up with 13 stitches on her head and a bad back—detracts from Delhi Metro's reputation for being fully modern and accessible. There are no barriers between the platform and the tracks at Vaishali and there was no assistant to receive her either. 

Singh, who frequently uses Metro to get to work, claims that assistance is often missing at Vaishali. She changes over to the Yellow line at Race Course station, switches to the Blue at Rajiv Chowk and rides it till the last stop at Vaishali. According to Metro's system, word of her arrival travels before her, or it should. "On that day, a student rode with me till Rajiv Chowk and there DMRC officials took my name and contact details. They were to inform the Vaishali staff so they could have assistance ready to help me off the train and out of the station once I arrived," recalls Singh. It's not anything new. "The people at the station know me," she says. 

She boarded the Blue line but once she got off at Vaishali, she found no assistant to guide her. "I waited and then started asking other commuters for help," she says. This too has happened before, but, on every occasion, someone had stepped forward. "This time no one came. I had gone a few steps when I fell straight on the tracks. There's a gap between the tactile strip and the platform as well and no barriers." The officials came running. They stopped the approaching train, pulled her out and had someone accompany Singh, who'd bled all over her kurta, to hospital. "Their ambulance didn't arrive on time either and I went to the hospital in my own car and without a female escort. I kept telling myself not to faint all the while." Her husband spoke to the station officials the next day but no one's got back to them with any update. They've also filed a police complaint. "This shouldn't happen to anyone else. There should've been barriers on the side. Not just for disabled people but also for kids. Anyone can fall in when it's crowded," she explains. 

Asked about the incident, spokesperson for Delhi Metro Anuj Dayal admitted that there had been shortcoming on part of the Delhi Metro staff. "The passenger had spoken to a customer facilitation assistant at Rajiv Chowk who had informed the train operator on the Vaishali-bound train. The TO, however, didn't inform station staff at Vaishali. The train operator is being questioned," said Dayal. 

"There was another case some time back," observes Anil Aneja, vice-president of All India Confederation of the Blind. He cites Section 46 of Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, that requires all public infrastructure, including transport, to be accessible. "There's a Supreme Court judgment of March 2014, that directs states to implement Section 46 by December. It's already November," says Aneja.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Policy of Bus Operator to not require non disabled travelers to vacate space for wheelchair users - a discriminatory practice

Does the policy of Bus Service provider not requiring non-disabled passengers including mothers with pushchairs/ prams, to vacate space for wheelchair users be considered discrimination under UK's  Equality Act 2010 ?

After a Judge of Leeds County court ruled that the policy to not provide mandatory priority space to wheelchair users vis a vis other passengers was discriminatory under the Act, the respondent "First Bus Group" the bus company which  runs services in and around Plymouth have decided to place issue before a Three Judge Appeal Bench  seeking clarity on it as a matter of law.  The County Judge said it had been the UK's parliament’s decision to give protection to disabled wheelchair users and not to non-disabled mothers with buggies.

Here is the news from The Guardian, UK.

Appeal court weighs legal duty of transport operators to enforce wheelchair users’ priority over other passengers

Press Association

The Guardian, Tuesday 11 November 2014 15.25 GMT

A judge ruled First Group had been discriminatory by not requiring other passengers to vacate the space reserved for disabled travellers. 

A woman’s refusal to move a pushchair with a sleeping baby from a bay on a bus used by wheelchair passengers – causing a disabled man to have to leave the vehicle – is at the centre of a test-case legal battle in the court of appeal.

Three appeal judges are being asked by a bus operator to decide whether wheelchair passengers should have priority over all other passengers to use the space as a matter of law.

The judges heard that First Bus Group had a policy of “requesting but not requiring” non-disabled travellers, including those with babies and pushchairs, to vacate the space if it was needed by a wheelchair user.

But a judge at Leeds county court ruled that the policy was discriminatory and in breach of a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.

The ruling was made in the case of Doug Paulley, a wheelchair user from Wetherby, West Yorkshire, who was denied access to the bus after the woman with the sleeping baby refused to move.

Paulley, 36, won £5,500 in damages against First Group, after the judge, Recorder Paul Isaacs, declared that the company should have taken measures to ensure he was not at a disadvantage when he tried to get on the bus.

The judge said it had been parliament’s decision to “give protection to disabled wheelchair users and not to non-disabled mothers with buggies”.

On Tuesday Martin Chamberlain QC, for First Group, appealed against that ruling. He said it was an example of a long-running problem on public transport that had produced conflicting court decisions and bus operators were now seeking legal clarity.

First Group had appealed because of their need to know “what they are legally required to do and how”, he said.

“It will be obvious that [First Group] are much more concerned with the wider effect of Mr Recorder Isaac’s judgment on its policies, customers and staff than on the relatively modest [damages] sum awarded in this case,” Chamberlain said. The case also affected “the expectation of disabled people to be able to access public transport”.

Chamberlain told the appeal judges, Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice Lewison and Lord Justice Underhill: “The problem with the adjustment required by the recorder in this case is that it requires a rigid policy of priority for wheelchair users over all other passengers, irrespective of their legitimate need to use the same space.”

The requirement “unnecessarily encourages confrontation and is unenforceable”, he said, and it was not in the interests of disabled people or passengers in general.

Paulley’s defence of the Isaacs decision is being funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Source: The Guardian 

Related Media Coverage:

Monday, November 3, 2014

Indian Railways invites bids for Braille signage in long distance trains

A good news coming in from the Indian Railways wherein the Integral Coach Factory has invited bids for large scale supply of braille signage. Here is the DNA coverage today:

Railway's braille plan takes off, tenders by month-end

Tuesday, 4 November 2014 - 6:20am IST | Agency: DNA

Good news for the visually impaired people who travel by the railways everyday. The railways' plan to have braille numbering and other signs for the visually-impaired finally got off the ground with the Integral Coach Factory inviting tenders for the large-scale supply of these items. The first big tender for braille numbers to indicate the berths of long-distance trains was issued this week and will be opened at the ICF's Chennai headquarters on November 25.

Confirming the development, Alok Johri, member (mechanical) said it is the first time railways was going for these braille signage for its long-distance coaches. Currently, long distance coaches have their signage, seat numbers as well as general instructions in the normal format written on vinyl stickers or metallic plates only helpful to normal passengers.

In the latter part of last year, railways deciding to provide braille stickers in coaches to facilitate visually impaired passengers. Things moved slowly since then and plans to have one air-conditioned coach in the Delhi-Purushottam Express also seemed to have been stalled.

The railway plan for braille signs and numbers in coaches will include braille characters embedded on to the metallic base so that visually-impaired could touch it and decode the information. Railway officials said the signage has been developed by the ICF under the observation of the Research Design Standards Organisation (RDSO) with suggestions from various organisations working for the visually-impaired.

Source: DNA

Smart Floors Enhance Accessibility of Airports for Passengers with Disabilities

Dear Colleagues,

The below article by Marisa Garcia of Skift brings into light how graphic floors can help people with visual disabilities particularly those with impairments of depth perception. This can be replicated at all public spaces particularly  Transportation Buildings or interchange stations for Bus, Rail, Metros, etc. and Other Buildings such as malls, institutions, universities etc. Here goes the article covering the smart floor tiles at Edmonton International Airport.

The striking graphic floor tiles of Edmonton International Airport compliment the terminal’s distinctive modern appearance, but they're far more beautiful than that. What might appear to other passengers as a decorative contrast of graduated color tiles, was designed to help visually impaired passengers better judge the distance to their gate.

“Some Visually-Impaired passengers may have poor depth perception,” explains Heather Hamilton, Spokesperson for Edmonton International Airport. “They can’t judge the distance to their gate with a long monochrome flooring in the terminal hall. The distance varied tiles of the floor we installed, with its skinny strips graduated along the length of the terminal, let’s you focus your eye on the lower shelves and better judge the distance to the check-in counters. The two different color insets of grey and blue also make it easier to judge the distance ahead.”

Edmonton International Airport's Floor Tiles Help Visually Impaired Passengers With Way-finding/Edmonton Airport
Edmonton International Airport’s Floor Tiles Help Visually Impaired Passengers With Way-finding/Edmonton Airport (photo credit
The decision to install this unique feature is part of Edmonton International Airport’s social commitment to travelers and to the local community. “We met with members of the community to get feedback on how we could improve our Terminal for all passengers,” says Hamilton. Helping passengers with limited depth-perception find their way through the Terminal better was one of the suggestions which came out of these meetings. “We have the same pattern worked into the carpet in our office tower. In the office carpet, the texture carpet and the height of the pile serve the same purpose.”

Awareness is growing in the travel sector, including at airports and airlines, about the importance of Universal Design. This is design which considers the needs of all and makes products and environments attractive, functional and accessible. Think OXO.
Edmonton International Airport's Graphic Pattern on Floor Helps Visually Impaired Passengers with Way-Finding/Edmonton Airport
Edmonton International Airport’s Graphic Pattern on Floor Helps Visually Impaired Passengers with Way-Finding/Edmonton Airport (photo credit
Laurel Van Horn, Director of Programs and Editor for the Open Doors Organization, and the former executive director of SATH (Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality), is an advocate of design which meets the needs of all travelers. The mission of the Open Doors Organization is to share insights into the needs of elderly and disabled travelers, targeting areas of improvement and carrying out accessibility initiatives.  As she explains, airport terminals are actively looking for ways to ensure passengers with disabilities and the elderly can better navigate our ever-expanding international terminal cities.

“Without a question, airports around the world are becoming more and more accessible,” Van Horn says. “This is true even in countries where little accessibility exists outside the airport. But are they becoming more usable or functional, especially as they grow in size? Most people who need wheelchair assistance in airports never use a wheelchair in their everyday lives but they can’t manage those huge distances.  Even those who can manage the walk may need an escort to find their gate because the way-finding and signage is so complex in these huge, multi-level terminals. This is where Universal Design can play a role.”